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Bloomington council acts to replace HVAC systems at arena and ice center; costs could top $8M

The $29 million dollar arena opened 15 years ago as the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. It's now known as Grossinger Motors Arena.
Emily Bollinger
WGLT file
The City of Bloomington expects to seek bids on the Grossinger Motors Arena HVAC project in April, said City Manager Tim Gleason. Once the project is underway, staff expects an 18-month project.

A proposed multimillion-dollar update of Grossinger Motors Arena and Bloomington Ice Center heating and cooling systems took a step forward Monday, with the Bloomington City Council authorizing engineers to ready the paperwork for the bidding process.

The council voted 7-0 to award a $173,000 contract with the Farnsworth Group to draft the design and construction documents. The actual rehab project could cost between $5 million and $8 million, and will improve the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at both facilities.

Council members De Urban and Julie Emig were absent.

“It’s something that we knew was coming,” City Manager Tim Gleason told WGLT after the meeting, in the downtown Government Center. “We think we’ve put a band-aid on the units enough that it can get us by. But the day’s come that they need to be replaced.”

The upgrades will provide cost savings through energy efficiency improvements, he added. But the timing of needing to replace the units has driven cost projections higher, given supply chain issues and the inflationary climate.

“It has truly taken a $3 1/2 (million) $4 million project and likely will double it,” said Gleason.

Also Monday, the council OK’d spending nearly $500,000 on a three-year plan to improve the city’s electronic data storage system; took steps to create a Heartland Community College building trades classroom center on Bloomington’s west side; and OK’d plans for a 56-unit apartment complex off Lutz Road.

Arena, ice center HVAC upgrade

The city expects to seek bids on the arena HVAC project in April, said Gleason. Once the project is underway, staff expects an 18-month project.

The project scope was determined when Farnsworth and city officials assessed the rooftop units earlier this year, Bloomington facilities director Russ Waller told WGLT. The city could see big energy savings after upgrading the HVAC units at the site, he said, adding the two venues use a great deal of electricity and gas.

The assessment showed two primary rooftop units on Grossinger arena, and a single rooftop unit on Bloomington Ice Center need to be replaced. It also identified several related improvements. The units are corroding, have deteriorated over the past 15 years, and the refrigerant they use no longer is available, Gleason said.

The new systems will be more efficient, durable and longer lasting than the current units, said Waller. Farnsworth is expected to work with Henderson Engineers, a Lenexa, Kansas-based firm with experience designing similar projects.

The arena work is projected to cost between $4.3 million and $6.9 million; while the ice center’s dehumidifier unit would cost anywhere from $670,000 to $1.2 million to replace.

More housing with apartment complex plan

In another matter, the council voted 5-2 in favor of granting a special-use permit to build a 56-unit apartment complex at the northwest corner of Lutz Road and South Morris Avenue. That request came from developer Mark Fetzer.

Ward 1’s Grant Walch and Ward 3’s Sheila Montney voted “no.”

The four-building complex will have 32 one-bedroom units, and 24 two-bedroom units. The plan also allows for possible future single-family homes nearby. Lutz Road access is provided and connection to a future extension of Timberline Drive to the Wittenberg Woods Subdivision also is provided.

Ashley Pettit addresses the Bloomington City Council at its meeting Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in the downtown government center
Michele Steinbacher
Ashley Pettit addresses the Bloomington City Council at its meeting Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in the downtown government center

Several people spoke against the project during the meeting’s public comments, and asked the council to wait, and have the city conduct a traffic study. After their comments, many in the crowded room applauded.

Ashley Pettit said she wasn’t against creating additional housing, and said she understands the need in our community.

But, as the daughter of a resident of Luther Oaks retirement community, she wants a traffic study to determine if the current setup for Lutz Road is adequate. That road currently only provides one entrance and exit point for the facility. Pettit said that could be an issue for ambulances at the home. She also was concerned about the current 40-mph speed limit.

“Many residents have significant concerns about this development, as evidenced by the turnout here tonight,” echoed Robert Kelley, another resident asking for a traffic study.

Ward 2’s Donna Boelen told the crowd she researched the concerns raised. But in the end, she agreed with city leaders the roads could handle the projected increase.

Bloomington engineer Craig Shonkwiler told the council that the projected increases could double from about 400 to 800 cars per day. But, that's still minimal he said, and well below the threshold of a required traffic study.

The apartment complex will include off-street parking, and a transitional buffer yard with evergreen screening between single-family homes on Handel Drive. As part of the project, a detention basin will be constructed from Lutz Road to Treeline Drive.

Council OKs upgrade for city’s data storage

The city will spend just over $485,000 to buy shared server storage arrays from Pure Storage Hardware.

The contract also includes IT support from SHI International Corp for three years, including a data migration timeline. About $252,000 is for the contract’s first year, while $116,500 goes for each of the following years.

City leaders said Bloomington’s storage infrastructure is no longer adequate for its needs. This update falls in line with the Information Technology Department’s strategic plan, OK’d in 2021. Some of the city’s data will be deleted, as permitted. Other items will move to a cloud-based storage system.

Business park on Market Street

Also Monday, the city annexed an acre at Market and Avalon streets, zoning it commercial for inclusion of a business park at 2318 W. Market St.

The city OK’d an annexation agreement with DKS Properties for the land, and amended the developer’s preliminary plan to create the 25-acre Interstate Business Park at the site along Interstate Drive. The council also approved the final plat for the Interstate Business Park’s 12th addition.

Mid Central Community Action partners with HCC

Mid Central Community Action soon will be the home of Heartland Community College’s latest satellite campus — this one focused on the building trades.

The nonprofit agency uses the Washington Street site for offices. Workbench Architects is overseeing a remodel of the nonprofit’s center that adds a business and trade school component. When complete, HCC also can use it for classes and training in basic construction and renovation skills.

On Monday, the council rezoned the center, at 1301 W. Washington, from M-1 to M-2 manufacturing. The M-1 manufacturing zone didn’t allow for the educational component.

The rezoning recognizes the area once used primarily for heavy manufacturing has shifted, and now is mainly residential and lower-intensity commercial use, according to council materials.

In other business, the council:

  • OK’d a site plan for a future Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites at Valley View and Wylie drives on the west side. The four-story building will include 40 rooms. 
  • Rezoned the former YMCA location at 602 S. Main St. to public lands use. Eastview Christian Church plans to buy the property and use it as a community center. It previously was zoned as a sports facility.
  • Approved several appointments to committees and boards, including adding a second youth member the city’s Public Safety and Community Relations board (PSCRB). Amira Harris-Bommarito will serve a one-year term. The PSCRB still has two empty seats, available for two-year terms.
  • Extended the lease, through 2024, for the U.S. Postal Service substation at 400 N. Center St. in the Market Street Garage. 
  • Combined the city’s short-term rental tax and hotel tax into one. The 6% rate doesn’t change.
  • Amended city code to allow the performance contract guarantee limit to increase to $400,000, up from $250,000.
  • Approved plans to create a four-lane drive-thru at Hy-Vee grocery store, near Veterans Parkway and Clearwater Drive.
  • Recognized residents who participated in this fall's Bloomington 101 class.

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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